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The real story behind Norway’s quotas… and what other countries can learn from it

Much is said about the gender diversity quotas introduced to Norway’s boardrooms since the 40% quota was introduced in 2005.  But I find in the presentations I deliver that surprisingly little is known about this poster child country for gender equity and the path it followed to achieving the more than 40% of women on boards it now boasts.  Did you know, for example that Norway has enforced a 40% quota in all public committees since 1985 –
yes, twenty years ago!.

This target was met by 1997, and today, women
hold 44% of seats in such organisations. All political parties (except
the inaptly named “progressive” party) have internal rules requiring
between 40 and 50% of each gender on electoral lists. But the private sector was very slow to follow suit, so much so that the  the government (half of whom are women) introduced a voluntary target of 40% women on boards of public companies in early 2000. The government was clear though: if the targets were not reached voluntarily, it would be mandated by law.  In 2005 this is what happened: quotas were voted into law, with a three year transition period.  From 7% women on boards in 2003 to 22% in 2004 to 29% in 2006, Nordic companies continued to increase their female representation – realising in 2007 that the quotas were for real, there was a final push by companies to reach the 40% limit or be put on a trading halt.  In 2009 the figure was over 40% – almost a 6-fold increase from the starting point.

The requirement for minimum representation levels of women on boards is written into the Public limited companies act, and
not the Gender Equality Act. It is simply an additional requirement to
the existing control mechanisms for corporate governance.

Like to know more?  The European Professional Women’s Network has published a summary of all the reporting requirements which you can access here.



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